Tokyobling's Blog

Kagura Dancers at Kitazawa Hachimangu

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on October 8, 2014

At the annual Kitazawa Hachimangu festival last month I saw these great looking dancers performing at the shrine stage, the kagura. I do not know the names of the styles they represent, but it is all part of the traditional Nihon Buyo. Some of them are comical, others are serious or mythical.

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Shinto Rituals at Kitazawa Hachimangu

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on October 5, 2014

One of the main draws of the annual grand Kitazawa Hachimangu festival in Tokyo’s Setagaya District is the beautiful shinto rituals and dances that are performed at the shrine’s Kagura stage. I took these photos of the performances at this year’s festival a few weeks ago. The children and young people who perform these rituals with such seriousness are really fantastic. I am already looking forward to next year’s festival!

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Matsuri Dog – Kitazawahachiman

Posted in Animals by tokyobling on September 11, 2014

Nothing suits a Japanese dog more than a bit of Japanese festival fashion! This young dog was a hit with all the photographers at the annual Kitazwahachiman Matsuri last week but didn’t seem to mind the attention one bit. I can’t keep a dog myself but if I did I’m afraid he would look something like this!

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Onnamikoshi – Kitazawahachiman Matsuri

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on September 9, 2014

I spent last weekend in Tokyo’s Setagaya ward and the Shimokitazawa district to enjoy and take part in the grand Kitazawahachiman Matsuri, an autumn festival for all the neighborhoods in the parish. One of the highlights of the festival is always the moment when all the neighborhood omikoshi (portable shrines carrying the kami, or god-spirit), gather at the shrine to pay their respects. One neighborhood fields two different omikoshi, one regular for the neighborhood and one unusual Onnamikoshi, or an omikoshi only for women! For natural reasons these are very popular but few neighborhoods have the resources to field two omikoshi, so they either limit the regular omikoshi to men or mix it up both for men and women. Carrying an omikoshi is definitively a team effort, but the things that make some members of the team strong independently makes them weaker in the team, and the omikoshi often serves as a subtle reminder of this.

The Kitazawahachimangu (北澤八幡宮) is located on the top of a hill and the omikoshi has to be carried up some quite steep stairs. Usually the neighborhoods have one or more (sometimes dozens) of lantern carriers, usually the young women of the neighborhood, after which comes the omikoshi directed by the more experienced members of the group using fans and whistles to signal both visually and audibly to the people carrying the omikoshi. It is impossible for any one single person to direct the omikoshi and sometimes they get stuck, move in the wrong direction or lurch dangerously to the side despite the best effort or dozens of team members. It is a remarkable thing to watch!

Other shrines or festivals that are famous for having at least one onnamikoshi are the Yasukuni shrine and the Sanja Matsuri in Asakusa. More photos from this fantastic festival to come!

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